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Teamwork Is Key to Sales Success for Top Sennebogen Distributors

Wed August 19, 2009 - Midwest Edition
Construction Equipment Guide

Three of North America’s leading heavy equipment distributors led Sennebogen LLC to another year of sustained growth in 2008. Constantino Lannes, president of the Charlotte, N.C., based company, and Erich Sennebogen, managing director of Sennebogen Maschinenfabrik GmbH, recognized their top three distributors at the annual dealer meeting held recently in Las Vegas. Sennebogen LLC has reached new levels for its green line purpose-built material handlers every year since the machines were first introduced from Germany in 2000.

Named as the 2008 sales leaders were Howell Tractor & Equipment LLC of Gary, Ind., Gibson Machinery LLC of Cleveland, Ohio, and Tractor & Equipment Company of Birmingham, Ala.

Lannes credited the strength of Sennebogen’s nationwide network of sales and service distributors for the emergence of Sennebogen machines as the market leaders in many key areas.

These top three distributors, in turn, agree that an effective team-selling approach to existing as well as new markets supported by Sennebogen has been key to their success.

Teamwork Opens Doors

A highly visible force in the traditional scrap-handling market, Sennebogen material handlers have been making inroads into new applications over the past few years. Tom Ellis, the general manager at Howell Tractor & Equipment, said that the team-selling approach makes it possible to gain footholds in diverse markets effectively.

“Our sales representatives work very closely with the Sennebogen staff who add their specialized application experience to ours and enable us to collectively open doors and gain the confidence of new customers,” said Ellis. “As an equipment OEM, Sennebogen is good to the dealer. They provide excellent training support for our sales reps and service technicians to keep our people current and fluent in machine technology and in market applications. Then they follow up with the kind of parts support that turns into repeat sales.”

Ellis said the team approach also is a two-way street.

“Our lead sales rep for Sennebogen machines, Phil Linoski, has an enormous amount of experience in traditional crane applications. He really understands how purpose-built material handlers fit into the mix, so other distributors will often come to him for advice on the best way to present a Sennebogen solution to their customers. One hand washes the other, and it’s a win for everyone.”

Diversity of Applications Leads to Success

Sales, service and factory specialists all work in unison to meet customer needs before and after the sale. A team effort led to Howell landing the first North American sale of the new Sennebogen 880 EQ equilibrium machines. Ellis reported that his group has been selling Sennebogen machines into a diverse range of applications, from recycling and steel mill service to bulk loading operations and port facilities.

“Our team approach relies on all of us moving in the same direction, with each of us doing what we do best. These are highly versatile machines, but the application support we receive from Sennebogen is invaluable for meeting specialized needs. Bidding a material handler to work in a river port takes in many factors that would never come up in other applications. You have to know the right questions to come up with the best answers”

Innovating to Simplify Sales

The opening of a second assembly plant in Straubing, Germany, last year represented a major investment in meeting customer and dealer demands for equipment. According to Erich Sennebogen, the company looks beyond its machine designs to support dealers and customers. The new factory in Germany is designed for improved customer service. Its modular manufacturing concept simplifies customization so machine specifications can be matched to different applications easily and tailored to meet special needs.

Let Customers Do the Talking

As a perennial member of Sennebogen’s sales team, Lee Gibson has been building his business on Sennebogen’s customer focus for many years.

“Sennebogen is my No. 1 line,” he said, acknowledging that Sennebogen parts support is an ideal fit with his own commitment to customers.

“I have invested heavily in my parts inventory so customers know they can rely on the equipment we sell them for the long term. Strong relationships make existing customers our best sales reps — they have the knowledge and credibility to talk to their peers in a way I can’t. We’re very proud that our customers are willing to open their doors to other prospects in the same or similar business. They have never had a problem saying that they are very pleased with the performance of their Sennebogen machines.”

Gibson noted that scrap recycling, his traditional market, was “still hot” in the early part of 2008. He has been an active member in the local ISRI branch for 20 years, so he is a well known mainstay of the industry. Later in the year, though, other sectors became more important as the economic climate changed. Fortunately, he was prepared. Gibson had already begun building a base in port facilities of the Great Lakes and the Ohio River system. Last year, he began offering “lunch & learn” events which provided port operators in the area to meet with Sennebogen staff who have experience with their applications.

The opportunity to explore new ideas in loading equipment was an education for Gibson’s sales staff as well as customers. Team-selling, again, led to the sale of a very special Sennebogen electric-drive machine, unloading barges at the Ohio River.

“Learning the right questions up front helps us to eliminate potential problems that can complicate the sale later,” Gibson said. “Having the Sennebogen people on board let us earn the trust of a new customer by showing that our team understands something about their business.”

See and Be Seen

Mike Holleman agreed that it’s important to maintain an active and visible profile in the local business community. As a sales representative for Tractor & Equipment Company (TEC) in Alabama, Georgia and Florida, Holleman is part of the largest Komatsu equipment sales organization in North America. However, each TEC sales representative is focused on a specific service territory within the region, keeping in touch with the particular interests of its tight-knit business communities. While TEC sales representatives are experts in local market needs and conditions, they can rely on Sennebogen specialists to tailor their sales team to get the right solution for any customer or project, from scrap handling to log yards, from waste handling facilities to coal barges.

“Our success with the Sennebogen line has been driven by getting a few machines into each area,” Holleman said. “The local businesses all know each other and know what’s going on — when they see ’another green machine,’ it sends a clear message. Then our good relationships mean our customers are open to other customers who call to find out what they think of the equipment. And there’s never a problem.”

The president of TEC, Dan Stracener, said that Sennebogen material handlers “…turned out to be a great product for us.”

Founded in 1943 and employee-owned, TEC has always built on its reputation on its parts and service to develop lasting customer relationships. There is no future, according to Stracener, in one-off sales.

“Sennebogen steps up to our way of doing business,” he said, “with unmatched access to parts and expertise. They provide factory-training for everybody and anybody on staff who needs it. By keeping up our service commitment, we have built up a position of trust with our customers. So when they need new equipment, they have confidence in our recommendations.”

Mike Holleman also appreciates the teamwork between his staff and Sennebogen’s factory team specialists.

“From their regional managers and service technicians through our sales reps and field staff — it’s all about customer service.”

Holleman recalled an instance where one customer urgently needed a new engine for one of its high-hour machines.

“Naturally, they called the local engine dealership for a replacement, but they were told it would take 6 weeks to have one available for delivery. So then they called us, and we were able get one shipped from Sennebogen’s warehouse in Charlotte the very next day. That’s service that customers remember.”

For more information, call 877/309-0099 or visit

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